tv Representative Mac Thornberrry Discusses Military Readiness CSPAN May 22, 2017 11:02am-12:01pm EDT
.hornberry >> welcome to brookings. i'm michael hammond of the foreign policy program. i have the privilege of back mac thornberry, republican from the 13th district x testis -- from the 13th district of texas. the first texan ever to have that role. texan whose family goes back to ranching in the 13th district as far back as 1881. probably wonder what he was doing in rainy washington when he could have been back in texas during springtime, but we are grateful for your service.
it's a momentous time in american foreign policy. to matters quickly of defense budget, defense spending, and where the entire debate may go with the release of the president's budget and congress gearing up in its normal hearing season on these subjects. join me in welcoming the chairman to brookings. [applause] budget, iget to the thought i could ask you to summarize here i position, reform bill of last week, headlines you wanted to make off that and one additional aspect to my question might be, i remember last year when you were here and elsewhere talking about your efforts with senator mccain and others. a lot of what you emphasized was , it saves money, that's nice.
i was struck in this bill that you are trying to help the taxpayer with reforms and efficiencies that may save money, looking hard at various kinds of requirements, logistics matters and how to purchase regular supplies. i wonder if you could explain the latest reform proposal in the context of how you think about acquisition reform. >> sure. maybe i will start with a broad bit of context. as far as congress's responsibilities when it comes to national defense these days, we essentially have two. one is to help rebuild the military and second is reform to help the military be more agile and innovative. the budget largely deals with the ribbon -- deals with the rebuild. a the agility side, we face
world with the widest array of complex challenges we've ever faced, and a world where and adversaries can invest in capabilities at a much faster pace than they have before. all of that requires us to be more agile and that is why acquisition reform is so important, as you point out, it's about getting the best our country can provide into the hands of the war fighter. we owe it that. a lot of what we've done in the past two years has focused on .he big acquisition programs this year's bill focuses more on the day-to-day sorts of things. probably the thing that will resonate the easiest with folks,
one of the reforms we proposed is to allow d.o.d. to buy things online, like on amazon. there are several other competitors like that. you can go off the gsa schedule, many costs more and which companies have decided they are not going to participate in because of the requirements. you can go through that contracting process, which takes forever. none of which is the definition of agility. the things that will allow d.o.d. folks to go back commercially, off-the-shelf items, online, on these online portals heard we also try to audit, the way companies are audited on the
costs they incur. there's lots of different sorts of audits at d.o.d. but this one starts bringing in private sector audit companies to do some of this job. it's happening in other agencies and it ought to be able to have been in dod. of of the lifecycle costs programs are on sustainment. it's on everything it takes to keep it operating over its lifetime. one of the changes is to require you conserve containment costs from the get-go. service contracts of all things that dod contracts for, 53% of it is services, not weapons and equipment. if you ask d.o.d., what are you spending this money on, and lots of other logical questions, they cannot answer it.
we try to get our arms around the service contract thing that .io does -- dod does >> as you know, we will have a conversation up here for a bit longer and then go to you for your questions. i think we've got slides up that are showing some of what you presented and proposed. even if they don't come up for what ever reason, let me summarize what i understand to be the state of play with your proposal. as we all know, president trump uote, $54a quote, uqno million increase to the defense budget. let's say president obama's level, it's only about a $20 billion increase, which israel money, only a few -- is real
money, and what you are now suggesting is that president trump's proposal is not enough and you want to add $37 billion to what he suggested. layout aif you could little bit of the major components of that $37 billion would be and then we can talk a little bit about each of them. >> again, just a little bit of context. last year, as house republicans were putting together an agenda to run on, the speaker asked our committee to look at what we think needs to be spent on defense. what would it take to repair the damage that has been done from eight years of cr',s, five years of the operational -- budget control act. his charge to us was, let's
figure out what it would take. president trump is talking about a specific size navy, etc.. how muchid was to show money would a cop which the hass that president trump set forward, but could be responsibly spent in fiscal year 2018. that is where we end up at $640 million. i think the budget the administration will propose is roughly 3% more than what president obama is suggested for this year, roughly eight 5% increase over current year funding. -- a 5% increase over current year funding rate it's the obama approach with a little bit more but not much. what's the difference? we tried to lay that out, and i think this shows some broad
categories. about $10nce is billion above what president obama suggested. these are broad labels, that's not just more airplanes, that includes the maintenance and operations, the training that's required for us to go against high and adversaries like russia, china, which we have not done so much of in recent years. that's the reason you see these here.ries some of that are bringing our ground forces up-to-date. if i were to look at this today, looking at what happened with north korea, i'm not sure we put enough into missile defense, increasing the number of ,nterceptors in current systems which are woefully short, and research into other here. kinds of systems that will hopefully be more effective and cost effective.
there was a little bit and munitions and appropriation bill that just passed. we put some here, but we have some significant ignition shortages and various items if you look at it very that's the reason there are these categories. i'm afraid when we talk about budgets, we get into these numbers games. what we lose sight of is what these numbers mean, and which capabilities are we willing to forgo with a different level of budget trait i think we have to be can create about that. the men and women on the front lines will have their life affected by what we are not facing, by the new capability we are not getting, and whatever choices we make. we need to make it more concrete. that sort of thing, which is usually the way this debate evolves. michael: so this is the base
budget. this does not include war costs. we are talking about the base budget for the department of defense. you wouldillion recommend would have an additional $60 billion in overseas contingency operation costs. chair thornberry: yes, i think all the estimates roughly $65 billion in operating for the oak oh account. you're correct, this is under budget categories the 050 account, which includes the nsa and department of energy and some other things. this is not trying to change the long-standing there are some people who have been saying, what we should try to do is take the quote, unquote war costs in the overseas contingency budget,
and tried to do proper budgeting and put them back in the base. you don't have enough money here to do that, right? chair thornberry: it does not accomplish that goal. that is a worthwhile conversation to have. there arerns me is if transfers into the base budget and people call it a defense increase, it will not be accurate. you the facts,l which is you haven't increased anything at all, you just change the label on the money. it's a worthwhile conversation to have a cause putting base requirements makes it very and meansto plan, money has not been spent as efficiently as it could be. we have become very dependent on that over the years to get around the budget control act. the 2018 proposal you are offering is designed to find things we know we can do
reasonably well in reasonably short order. is it fair to say this is consistent with the candidate 300 50-shipon of a navy, general goldfine's proposal to increase the size of the air force, getting the army active duty000 soldiers, are those part of the structure goals behind us? chair thornberry: yes. you cannot accomplish those goals in a budget or two. it takes time for it general goldstein told us it takes 10 grow and $10 million to fighter pilot. the air force today is roughly pilots short. this takes time. if i make one other point on we hadarlier this year
the chiefs who testified about the state of our military, one of the points that the vice chief of the air force made is that air force pilots today are receiving fewer training orders than they did during the military of the 1970's. that was my reaction. i went back then and looked. we know about the military of the 1970's and nobody would suggest that we have equivalent problems and so forth. there are a remarkable number of parallels between the damage done today and the damage that was done then. what did it take to get out of that? the last year of jimmy carter's administration was an increase in defense spending. president reagan has a 17%. next year and 18%. and then three more years of 10%.
that's what it took to overcome the neglect and damage done in the 1970's through our military, helpsat sort of context us with the size and duration of what sort of repair work is needed for the problems we have created. michael: in an aviation week and space technology, there was more data about which aircraft has which mission capable rates. do you think we need to get more of that data into the public? also trying to be specific about the defense needs. how should we handle that? chair thornberry: i've been .ushing for more openness i've had some debates with leadership and the pentagon about this because they are concerned about telling our
adversaries too much about what our problems are. i focused being more political than theirs is, to get political sub or we need to have this sort of rebuilding like they did in the 1980's, we will have to be more explicit about that. i will say, when you have things that happened last month, you have a fair number of pilots go on strike because they believe the aircraft they were being asked to fly were not safe. we've had a number of classified andfings with my committee, i think the more people know about the facts, the more urgent fixing this problem becomes. army brigade combat teams. for the last two or three budgets, the army has been saying he wants to send a third of its combat teams per year to
the national training center to do the full unit, three-week long exercises and training that is a combination. one would think if we are trying to fund that for two or three years and doing 1/3 of the brigades per year, we would start to catch up. apparently were not. apparently the army is talking today in the same tones it was two or three years ago about the state of readiness, the lack of full unit training and exercise. what's going on? is it cousin of the continuing ?esolution hasn't the army been able to start to catch up? chair thornberry: i think you are right for part of it. we have not been spending money efficiently and for units to
rotate through the training center, you have a plan for that . part of the reason i believe the readiness problems are deeper than most of us have realized, just as we are cannibalizing parts off of lanes to keep other arees flying, we cannibalizing army units in order to make those that we are sending on deployments for. you talk to the commanders about this, and part of their challenge is, they never have their full units. you have these people coming and going all the time great if they have a chance to go to the national training center, they come back, a bunch of their people are taken away and plugged into other units. so they lost a lot of that benefit. general millie says what he's looking for, to increase the number of people in the army is
not the increase for structure, is to plug the holes so you can keep units together, and units training together is what's required to go against these more sophisticated adversaries. there's a number of other examples where our people are so good when you send them off on a mission, they will accomplish that mission. if you look at the cost, the damage that is done to accomplish that mission, whether it is mechanics working around the clock or cannibalization, that is part of the reason i'm convinced the damage is a bird than we understand. michael: one more part of the readiness debate, thinking about ,ow we do foreign deployments we are going to poland now. we still have that brigade in korea and it's generally unaccompanied duration we
requirements. can you give any details on that? chair thornberry: one of the key things our troops have come to to be within an hour of receiving medical care if they are injured on the battlefield great it's called the golden hour. you start looking at a variety of operations around the world, but it takes to maintain that golden hour, and it requires some more investment. things thatof those i think we have to maintain, and it does require some more money. that's part of it. here in the front row, and work our way back. chairman, to ask mike's
question but more rudely because that's my role -- chair thornberry: your role or your personality? i'm just getting. -- kidding. the one hand, as you say, the new administration has a shakeup discussion about entitlements. obstacles to any budget change, including defense budgets. on the other hand, we have a president who is seeming to shoot himself in the foot on a regular basis. you have budget coming out very late. we have a skinny budget coming out earlier. it seems while there might be more room for an upside and great progress, there's a lot more room on the downside, possibly both extremes are greater. just having lived in d.c. for a while, my gut is that things will get rather than better.
what's the best scenario you can see, blessed plausible scenario? what's the worst case of gridlock, and where do you think the odds lie? as presidentrry: bush said in a different context, don't be guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations. which, i understand, you can point to past failures and say, this is never going to happen, they will never get their act even some of my colleagues are saying, we are in for a year-long cr. we wills our mindset, bring it to pass. i think that's a mistake. i can't tell you what will happen. thati can tell you is there is wide agreement in both parties that we have cut defense too much.
we are roughly 20% below what it was in 2010. let me throw a couple other numbers that you, to back up for a second. if you look back at what we are spending now versus 2000, our defense budget has gone up about the over that same period, chinese defense budget increased four times. the russians about three times. just in a bit of context, we spent three times as much on medicaid today as we did during bill clinton's time. that's where the growth has in, in mandatory spending, and it's been with our adversaries. it has not been with our defense budget, and we are paying a price for it. what iis to describe think is necessary to fix the to be as and to try
effective and advocate as they can be for the men and women who risk their lives on the front lines to keep us safe. that's what i'm going to do. i can't tell you how the washington games will play out. , we haven tell you is some serious -- not just needs, but there is real damage the needs to be repaired, and our adversaries are not sitting still. michael: do we need a repeal, reformulation of the budget control act? chair thornberry: you can keep to get to whatever number you want to, but it's not a good way to do it. say, the budget control act was designed to bring mandatory spending under control. it is a complete failure. we ought to repeal it and try something else.
this, 50% of of the cuts under the budget control act has been inflicted on 14.7% of the budget. >> i'm the ceo and president of government contractor. thank you for coming and talking to us today. my question is about small business. i recently saw an interview with you where you referred to mid tier. tier is a termid being thrown around it means inadvertently, the acquisition system currently punishes small businesses, inadvertently punishes small businesses for success. as soon as they pop out of the small business, they are big,
but they're not big. the small businesses and the mid tier group are some of the most innovative places. can you address that subject and wait what you see for the future of trying to help that situation? chair thornberry: first, i completely agree with your premise. that much of the innovation withs going on today is small and midsize companies. how manyefine employees or revenue that is straight does a lot of innovation that goes on at the big 5. there is a time of innovation, especially for future systems, that goes on with smaller companies, and i'm sure the big defense companies will be able to adjust to whatever regulations dod puts out. they can hire more accountants,
more lawyers, they can adjust. it's really difficult for smaller companies to be able to do that. and so, i talked to a number of companies that will put in bids for something, but they don't hear an answer for a couple of years. keepre they supposed to the doors open while they are waiting to get a response to the bits they put in there -- bids they put in their? i keep focused on this idea of agility. we have got to be faster. faster at making decisions, faster in developing and andding new capabilities, small, midsize companies will be crucial for that. michael: retired army an independent consultant. what is your view of the president's directive as it affects by americans and flowing
the requirements down to the second and third tier, and can we expect to see anything in the ndaa for fy '18 along those lines? chair thornberry: just back to detail, on my commercial off-the-shelf on amazon business-to-business or some other portals, we lead in place the current requirements. there's obviously several aspects to this issue. one of which is, it's harder and harder to figure out in a global in thechain what is made united states and what is not. the other aspect of the issue is that there can certainly be
implants of various kinds in equipment, and it is a challenge for us to know that the equipment we are fielding is bug free. and so, we are never going to be able to be on either extreme of this. the world is too complex. we have to have mitigation the world is toostrategies. row.el: here in the sixth >> good morning. margaret on air force, retired. i'm very familiar with the issues of cannibalization and maintainers. my question has to do with, last year on that house armed services committee voted to
include women in the selective passed int, and it the house committee. however, then it went to the floor and didn't pass. it passed readily in the senate to be included in the ndaa. when we are talking about workforce development, over 50% of the population is women, we are sending a real negative recruiting signal to women that they aren't wanted in the why doesn't the house rectify this? havef the military chiefs requested that it be done. that's one question. another one is, with the budget control act, when will we consider an updated simpson bowles situation? chair thornberry: i disagree a message that is
because ofto women, the selective service. we need to step back and assess whether we need selective service are not. and then if we decide we do, to register.ho should but you shouldn't get to the second and third of your questions before you answer the first question. the first question is, what is the role, if any, of selective service in today's world? that was the reason it came out like it did rather than jump to a second conclusion. step back and we have appointed a commission that is supposed to look at all aspects of this, report back, and we will see what they say. so the draft ended what, 73 or in manyg like that, respects i think the all volunteer army has been an
incredible success. one of the big reasons i say the problems we face today are in many ways different from what we faced in the 1970's is because of the success of all volunteer force. it seems appropriate that however many years later, we step back and take a look, ok, is selective service needed, and, just one bit of context, depending on whose estimates you here, something like 70% of the eligible age group of young people are not fit for military service for a variety of reasons. all of that social context, as needs toilitary need, be looked at in the broader sense before we get to the other. why not another simpson bowles or some other name deal? i'm for it. i don't know whether it will happen or not.
if that can help us get to a to a better, more logical budget -- two about how we think about the state of the military, deciding today, and how many people are willing to consider joining how we address that question. ingo through ebbs and flows our national debate as to whether people are thinking about joining the military, becoming an institution that most people are glad to have but don't want to be part of themselves, certain coastal elites don't tend to provide as high a percentage. i just wondered if you see this issue as a top-tier issue of the moment. you mention 70% of all the demographic is considered not eligible. should we try to change that in some way? maybe you can imagine things like boot camp where people sign up and they can then join the
military if they complete that boot camp, so to speak, you could imagine letting people go out of the military and come back and more easily. you could imagine a campaign for national service like stan mcchrystal proposed in which we at least try to send a message to those who are eligible, encouragement and appreciation benefits if they join either the military or some other kind of service. chair thornberry: benefits i t's important, i don't think it's urgent. but i do think we've got to keep our eye on this issue. i've been very sympathetic with the idea of national service. could we do, as some other countries have, a requirement that everybody spend a year or two and some form of national service?
we are a long way politically from that. i think we would have a lot of enormous benefits. at the same time, i'm not sure i can for cs ever going back to the kind of warfare that takes millions of people, requires millions of people out on the battlefield, which gets back into, do we need a draft off of farms and factories, go through boot camp and send them over the beaches? it says something that we need to have contingency plans for? i'm not sure. but i do think that civil military relationship is important. side note, we talk a lot about iraq. there's a lot of ways to evaluate it. it's an interesting thing that
is not discussed very much. if you significantly reduce the number of communities that have military bases near them, how does that affect the relationship between civilian sector and the military, or does it? it may. we need to keep our eye on changes in society and this evolving military, with more and more specialists, more and more highly trained folks, higher and higher demands on the people who serve, to keep that healthy. i don't think we can take that for granted. michael: thank you. here in the seventh row. >> veronica, think tank group, nuclear policy. my question is in security. is there any budget place for early warning modernization for
readiness to any motive war? air, land, and maritime, and would you speak about how current are we on the system? thank you. chair thornberry: i'm not sure i understood the question. michael: early warning on nuclear matters? >> yes. in case we have an intentional strike. how current are we on the early warning system here at home? chair thornberry: you have obviously the intelligence community and a number of systems in the military that are designed to help revive early warning. launch,ly for missile or for other kinds of indicators we may need to keep on top of.
i think the whole nuclear enterprise from early warning to actually delivering strike has been neglected for 30 plus years, and is the foundation upon -- having a credible nuclear deterrent, is the foundation upon which the rest of our defense efforts rest. and so part of what you see, and what we need to do in the future, is to modernize every from the warning systems to nuclear command-and-control to the delivery systems for the warheads themselves. but i'll just say, in addition that, we have to have -- part
of -- there's a budget control act, etc. it's not just missiles flying through the air that we need to worry about. its submarines, all sorts of a robustnd having intelligence community is essential to warn against all sorts of efforts. it may be chemical or some other shortage. michael: all the way back. mr. chairman, i be interested in your thoughts. later this week the u.n. is having some meetings with defense ministers. i would be interested in your thoughts on multilateralism, engagement of the u.s. and various multilateral institutions, and in particular
on nato, the president called it obsolete. what is your view on the role of our nato alleys? -- allies? chair thornberry: i think nato has been the most successful alliance in history. commentshe more recent the president and certainly folks in his administration have made reaffirm the importance of nato. i think the president has had a positive effect on encouraging nato allies to increase their contribution to nato's defense efforts. efforts. our read in the press that there will be an announcement -- , we can dotty simply
everything that needs to be done in the world. we have to have friends and do everythingt that needs to be done in the world. we have to have friends and allies. be yourlly hard to friend. as i have a variety of defense ministers and foreign ministers ambassadors ambassadors, as i o travel a bit. world.ue all around the example,one small we've got friends who want to come by weapons and equipment from us, willing to pay cash, and we make it -- we make it excruciatingly difficult for them. improving our ability to sell, much less to provide, weapons
and equipment to friends who can, as they become more capable, take some of the responsibility off of us, is one of the things we are looking at as far as the dod portion of it, is just one example. obviously i think there's a place for u.n. peacekeeping. there are limits to what the u.n. will or can do, but there's a place for it in the world. >> hello, chairman. challengedng to be to get above the $603 billion topline. the president requested that much. kay granger said she can defend 640 number, but she said not
unless something false from heaven. is it on the table? chair thornberry: we haven't decided what number we will mark to. soft entry of low expectations. expectations.low people are cynical, and there's a reason to be. first, it's a job at the military to help propose what they think is needed for them to execute the missions they were ordered. to make falls to us those decisions. ought to bear the responsibility of those decisions. i've been concerned through the obama years about the military has not been willing to stand up and say this is what it needs. they hedge their bets because of either pressure they feel, or
is from leadership. and so, i worry that we start hedging our beds at the beginning, where you end up his way down here somewhere, where is the real need we really lose sight of. my focus is, what's the need? we will have a discussion in the house about where we are with the budget process, where our mark ought to be, and take it step by step. i think it's important to say ok, if you want to do these things, this is what it takes. if you're not going to do that at that level, you've got to be really clear and bear the responsibility for the things you are not doing. for the capabilities you will leave off, for the repairs you will not carry through. 8th or 9th row. amanda with mazon, a jeish
risk -- jewish response to hunger. in addition, partners of ours have stated there is at least one food country on every naval and marine base in the u.s. talked about entitlement programs, needing more flexibility. food stamps is an entitlement program. how do you propose to address the issue that so many of our military are going hungry, and how does that fit in with the need for readiness and an effective defense force?
falls into that category. but it's more the focus of treating our people right. so, one of the big things we've had for years, as you will remember, is according to the formula, the military pay raise should be a certain amount. had it lower. last year, we required it to be at the level the formula said, which i think was 2.1%. we are not talking gigantic money. is what wasfinally enacted. but it was the exception. every year before, it has been whittled away at least .5%. so, i hope we are on a better track. not only in how much people get paid, but ensuring that the benefits meet their needs. and so we've had commissary reform last year, we had
tri-care reform on the health care site last year, we instituted a new retirement system which changes the 20 year are nothing approach the military has had for so long. trying to update all of these be more appropriate for the times we live in has been something we just persisted in. i'm going to take the last question, take the prerogative here to come back to this question of short-term versus long-term. i know you've been an advocate of thinking about our national needs across different domains of worker, but also across different time frames. my question is less about your priorities than about the nation's, and whether we are capable of addressing near-term crises but also keeping our eye on the longer-term ball. as we see a lot of attention to the readiness problem, which is understandable and essential, how do we make sure that we think longer-term about
everything from the cyber defense has said may make our military forces vulnerable to serious hacking. space satellites and other capabilities that may be vulnerable to being taken down quickly and not easily replenished, and we have become very dependent upon those. areyou comfortable that we sort of at a fairly good path with some of these things, or is there some added impetus we need to give to those thoughts as well? chair thornberry: if i were comfortable, i wouldn't be doing all the reforms that we have. back as we were describing -- they describe for me how difficult it is to try to do business. last week we had testimony from the 809 panel, and one of the witnesses was an executive for irobot.
he described how he went to meet with wall street, and they advise them to get out of the defense business. >> you can watch this discussion with chair thornberry anytime online. go to c-span.org. type his name in the video library search bar. the house about two gavel in for morning our speeches. >> the house will be in order. washington, d.c. may 22, 2017. i hereby appoint mike gallagher to act as speaker pro tempore on this day. signed, paul d. ryan, speaker of the house of representatives. >> pursuant to the order of the house of january 3, 2017, the chair will not recognize members from lists submitted by the majority and minority leaders for morning our debate. the chair will alternate recoio